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RightStart Mathematics, Level B, 2nd Edition (Books and RS2 Math Manipulative Set) Review by Audrey Tolle

Activities for Learning, Inc.
1 (888) 272-3291
321 Hill St.
Hazelton, ND 58544

I have used several different math curriculums in the past six years I have homeschooled my children. With the various learning styles and strengths of my children, it seemed that I was constantly on the lookout for a math curriculum that “clicks” for each of my children’s unique needs. I am honored that I got to review the RightStart Mathematics Program, Level B, 2nd Edition and the RS2 Math Manipulative Set with my 1st grader, and am happy to share my experiences.

RightStart Math was developed by Dr. Joan Cotter after spending time observing how Japanese classrooms taught math, and how much more successful they were at it; even early on. I admit that sometimes it is hard to teach in a way that is new to me, but if I am willing to do so, I usually can come to see why the method is effective. This is definitely true with RightStart Math (RSM).  The first unique concept that RSM introduced was how numbers are referred to at first. Quantities are referred to in groups and counting individually is discouraged. For example, 6 is referred to as 5 and 1.  Nine is 5 and 4. Once quantities 1 to 10 are known, then 10 is the unit that we group by.  Temporarily, eleven would be “1 ten-1”, and thirteen would be “1 ten-3”, or thirty-five would be “3 ten-5.”

RightStart Math has quite the impressive manipulatives kit. This is another way that RSM is unique in its approach to teaching math. Flashcards are never used for practicing concepts. Rather, the child learns through many manipulatives to visualize and understand the lesson, and then plays games to gain concrete practice. Games can easily be played and modified if needed to include siblings at their level of learning. There is a whole book of Math Card Games with loads of game ideas. Though there are worksheets, many lessons do not include a worksheet at all, especially in the lower levels.

I will be honest and say that I was slightly intimidated to use RightStart Math due to the fact that I had heard that it was “very parent involved” from those in my homeschool circle. I did need to initially spend about an hour or two to familiarize myself with the manipulatives, the layout, the teacher’s manual, etc.  However, on a daily basis working with my first grader, I do not think it is any more parent involved or intensive than any other math program for this age group. Young learners do need a parent to help them with math and explain these concepts, so I would be working with my child on math no matter what math curriculum I use. Each daily lesson is scripted and needs very little, if any, preparations. The only prep I did at the start of the week was to look through the lesson materials list, and make sure to get out all the manipulatives that we would need that week, so I didn’t have to go get them out each day. If there was a new game, I would also read the directions in advance so I was familiar with it, and could readily explain it to my children without losing their attention. Other than that, I could just show up at math time with my lesson book and get started.

One thing I loved about RSM is their use of the abacus. I have owned an abacus in my homeschooling supplies for over seven years and don’t think I have ever really used it, or understood how to use it.  The AL Abacus used in RSM is specially designed for students to visualize the number quantities in the way that they are introduced throughout this curriculum. The abacus is used in almost every lesson at the start of Level B, so familiarizing yourself with it using the instruction guide is helpful.

A typical lesson would have the Objectives and the Materials stated at the top of the page. There is a brief warm up activity where a quick review is done or there is a problem to solve. Next, the lesson begins using manipulatives, games, and possibly a worksheet. The lesson ends with the parent asking a question to solve using the skills that were introduced that day

I enjoyed this curriculum tremendously. It was a good reminder for me that math can be fun. I enjoyed seeing concepts click with my five and seven-year-olds while they played card games and used manipulatives. I am already seeing the fruits of them learning to group numbers and use the Abacus.  I was worried that they really wouldn’t be able to understand the concepts if they didn’t do worksheets or have something to show for their work in the “traditional” manner. These worries were in vain as my five-year old child is already able to add numbers like 30 and 25 after about six weeks of using this curriculum.  I was astounded when I saw that Level B begins with quantities to 5 and by mid-book are adding thousands without the abacus.

I enjoyed how the lessons moved around a bit.  It might have three lessons on quantities, and then move to months of the year, and then move back to quantities for a few lessons, and then touch on shapes. I feel that they developed it in a way that flowed, but also gave a little break to work on something new.

I know when purchasing a new math curriculum, the manipulative kit is often the priciest part of the purchase. I would encourage you to remember that the manipulatives are used year after year and to mentally spread out the cost over the long haul. The manipulatives are of great quality and can be used with many children. It includes many items that are not in traditional manipulatives kits. The RS2 Math Manipulative Set includes: AL Standard Abacus, Math Card Games book, Place Value Cards, Base 10 Picture Cards, Abacus Tiles, Cards for Math Games, Fraction Charts, Drawing Board Set, Geoboards, Geometric Solids, Plastic Coins, Geometry Panels, Colored Tiles, Geometry Reflector, Casio Calculator 450, Geared Clock, Math Balance, Tangrams, Centimeter Cubes, 4-in-1 Ruler, Folding Meter Stick, Goniometer, Tally Sticks, and the Yellow Is The Sun CD.

I would definitely recommend RightStart Mathematics to anyone looking for a curriculum that involves mostly hands-on activities, but where the child can really see and visualize the process. I couldn’t be happier with the progress that my children have made in a few short weeks using RSM, all while having fun.

-Product review by Audrey Tolle, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October, 2016